Tuesday, March 31, 2020

In the shadow of his wings

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy! 
I look to you for protection. 
I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings 
until the danger passes by.
Psalm 57:1

Like much of the rest of the world, we are currently in lockdown in our home in Quito. We can leave to buy groceries, but that's about it. It's a good time for all of us to seek mercy from God. Whether we need protection from illness or patience while we stay in shelter, God is the refuge we must rely on. May God use this time to make our hearts more receptive to him. May he also open doors to give us more influence in the lives of others whose hearts might also be extra receptive.


Three weeks ago Alliance Academy was in the middle of Spiritual Emphasis Week. It seemed that God was doing some important ministry through the guest speakers in the lives of the students. Unfortunately, that ministry came to an abrupt end when the mayor of Quito closed all schools in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. For the first couple of days, Lindsey was able to study at home in the company of her friends.


On March 15 Ecuador closed it's borders and went on lockdown. You can read a translation of President Moreno's speech here. Since then, we have barely been out of the house. Kristi is teaching her fourth graders online. There have been a few challenges getting it to work smoothly, but we are mostly grateful for technologies that didn't even exist a few short years ago!


Early in March Scott received a visit from a Quichua man named Segundo who is looking for help to plant a new church in his community.


Segundo was planning to accompany Scott to his next workshop on Bible Study in Chimborazo. He was excited to meet some other leaders there who could help guide him in the church planting ministry. Unfortunately, all of these plans have also been put on hold due to our current reality. Pray for God's blessing on the life of Segundo and for God's perfect timing.

One of the important tasks God has laid on Scott's heart is to help promote missions in Ecuador, encouraging the national church to send out missionaries to the rest of the world. In March he began teaching a course in cooperation with Encamina, a Bible and missions training center in Quito. He taught the first class and then everything shut down. Thankfully, with a little bit of creativity and hustle they were able to move the classes to an online format with Zoom. Scott expects to continue his involvement in this ministry for the near future.


It's incredible the way life has changed so quickly for all of us. Just like you, we have had to make some pretty big adjustments. Pray that God would make this a fruitful time of ministry in the middle of a new situation. Let us know how we can pray for you. Together we can make it through this. We can all put our trust is the unchanging God of the universe. No matter what the coming weeks and months bring, we know we are under the shadow of his wings!

Friday, February 7, 2020

Back to "normal" ministry!

It's been good to be back in ministry in Ecuador and start to feel like we're in our normal routine.

Quichua conference

Last month I (Scott) had the privilege of presenting two sessions at a weekend Quichua conference. There were about 40 people attending, several of whom are key leaders in various parts of the country.



In one session I presented a historical and contemporary perspective of the work of Avant Ministries in Ecuador. In the other I challenged the attenders to consider their responsibility in global evangelism. The Ecuadorian church needs to take serious steps toward being a missionary sending country. It was encouraging to see their positive reaction to this message. Pray that God will continue to move them in this direction in the coming months and years.



I was also considerably encouraged by learning to know the other speakers at the conference. They were both men that I had not previously met. They are Ecuadorians involved in leadership on a national level in other organizations. They brought good quality messages and it was good to see the Quichua leaders turning to faithful servants on other fronts as well.

Elder Team

One of my responsibilities is serving as elder of our church in Quito. It feels great to be back with the team and work to help our church grow. The frustrating part is that there never seems to be an end of needs and ministry opportunities. Pray that we can prioritize the most important things and do this job well.

William

The other day I had the joy of meeting with a young man for some one-on-one training. William was really searching for a way to study the Bible that would help him catch the message the Lord has for him. I taught him some basics of inductive Bible study and he seemed truly grateful. Pray that William will learn to put good Bible study methods into practice in his personal life. Pray that God will guide me regarding follow up he might need.


Lindsey's Schooling

The first semester at Alliance ended last week. This week Kristi and Lindsey have off of school between semesters. Next week Lindsey will jump full swing into school for the first time for several weeks since she finished 1st semester in the US. For the past couple weeks she sat in on classes to help get a running start for second semester.



She was also able to get in on the beginning of the basketball season. We're proud of her for making the varsity team. We enjoyed her first game last week. It's not quite the same as basketball in Kansas, but we're definitely thankful for the opportunity Lindsey has to do something here that she loves so much.

4th Grade

Thank you for all the prayers as I (Kristi) jumped into teaching 4th grade at Alliance Academy in the middle of the year. My class had been praying for me and was excited to welcome me back. The best word to describe January was "new". New names, new classroom, new grade level, new procedures, new co-workers, etc. But God was with me and I was able to help my class finish up their 1st semester. Pray for continued strength as we begin 2nd semester on Monday.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from the Equator!

We are thankful to God that he allowed us to return to Ecuador on December 11th. We worked hard at settling into our apartment before our children began arriving for the holidays. Both Luke and Joel are able to spend 3 weeks with us and David and Shelby were here for a week over New Year's. It was the first time in 2 1/2 years that we were all able to be together. We have enjoyed time enjoying the sights and sounds of Ecuador again as a family. We have much to thank God for!



Today Kristi returned to the classroom. She is teaching 4th grade Math, Science and Bible. There are 39 students between the 2 teachers. She has already spent a couple of days in the classroom getting things ready. Please pray for both Kristi and her students with this transition in the middle of the year. Above all, pray that Kristi will be a light to her students.

Scott will also begin teaching again this month. He will be participating in a conference that is scheduled for the weekend of January 17-19. He is responsible for two different sessions. Pray for him as he prepares for this time. Also pray for him as he begins to accept other teaching opportunities again.

Lindsey finished up her semester in Kansas before Christmas and will have a break here as 2nd semester at Alliance doesn't begin until February 10th. She is going to join the basketball team starting this week as they are just beginning their season. She also plans on sitting in on classes a bit as well to help the transition back. She is missing her friends back in Kansas. We are so thankful for how God abundantly provided during our time in the States. Now we are trusting God to once again surprise us with his loving care as Lindsey adjusts back to Ecuador.

We are thankful for each of you and the encouragement you have been to us with all of your prayers and giving!

Scott, Kristi and Lindsey






Friday, November 29, 2019

Very Thankful!

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday. This year it was an especially meaningful time for us to look back and give thanks for God's goodness to us in several ways.

Kristi has continued to regain strength in recent weeks. She is very near full recovery from surgery on her pancreas. We are grateful to God for the clear signs of his hand of blessing on her health. Most significant among many is the fact that through God's grace the benign tumor she had is only found in about 1% of pancreatic cases. We know Kristi's recovery is only due to a good gift from the Lord in our lives.

We last wrote to ask for prayer regarding Ecuador's turbulent political situation. The nation experienced about 10 days of violent protests over the removal of a gasoline subsidy in efforts to solve an economic crisis. The subsidy was re-implemented and peace has returned. Other solutions for the economic crisis are being pursued. Please pray that long-term stability can be achieved. We are thankful for the return of peace. We are also thankful that we weren't there for the difficult days of turmoil. Nevertheless, if it turns out that rocky times are still to come, we are prepared to trust the Lord for our safety.

We are gearing up for our return to Ecuador on December 11. We will continue the work of settling in to our new apartment after we arrive. Kristi also has a lot of preparation to complete for stepping back into her teaching role in January. Lindsey doesn't finish her semester here until a few days later. We will leave her with friends and family, and she will travel alone to join us on December 21. Please pray for her to end the semester well, have a smooth transition between schools, and have an uneventful day of travel alone. The upcoming changes are a difficult test for Lindsey, but she is facing them with a good attitude.

Joel recently made a move and is working on an internship in children's ministry in a church in the Los Angeles area. Scott was able to visit him and see how he is adjusting to his new environment. We are thankful for the friends he has there who are obviously godly and caring people. We are also thankful for an employment opportunity that he needed as a supplement for his living expenses.

We are very thankful for the time we have been given to be with friends and family in the past months, weeks and days. Your encouragement and friendship is so important to us. Our hearts are full as we return to ministry in just a few days. We are also really looking forward to spending the end of the year with our whole family in Quito for a few days. We haven't had all our kids together at once for 2 1/2 years. It will be good to go to our other home in the Southern Hemisphere and gather with our immediate family to celebrate!

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Unrest

We were overwhelmed with so many of you praying for us as Kristi went through finding and removing the tumor on her pancreas. God answered your prayers above and beyond what we could have imagined. Today we ask you to pray for the beautiful country of Ecuador.

Last week the Ecuadorian president made the decision to take away the subsidy for gas and diesel causing both to increase in price significantly. All the transportation services called for a national strike on Thursday and Friday. Buses and taxis were blocking roads as well as burning tires in the middle of streets, protesters were out in key spots as well as looting and violence occurring. The President declared a state of emergency.

Over the weekend the indigenous people groups began marching toward Quito to protest as well. The President and his main cabinet have actually left Quito and are working in Guayaquil. Schools have not held classes since Wednesday and are suspended until further notice. Major roads continue to be blocked making it difficult to get around. Many flights have been cancelled. Grocery store shelves are empty. Tomorrow many protests are expected again.

Please pray for peace. Pray that the different sides in this issue would be able to find a way to work together. Pray for God's people to shine light in the midst of a dark situation.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Review

We have so much to be thankful for. We have seen God working and providing and caring over and over these past 6 weeks. Let me share just some of the ways we have seen God working.

I had a gall bladder attack even though I had never had any problems before. Because of this, the doctors made a very important discovery of a tumor on my pancreas.

My Ecuadorian doctor told us honestly that if we had the option of returning to the States for treatment that would be best since they don’t do very many pancreatic surgeries in Ecuador.

We were able to get airline tickets and get things ready to leave within 3 days. One of our churches paid for our airline tickets.

There were so many friends in Quito who provided meals, let Lindsey hang out with them while I was in the hospital, helped us get the house cleaned up, etc.

Five days after arriving back in Kansas, Lindsey started school again at Berean where she was last year. There were many friends and teachers to welcome her back who she knew from before.

During the 3 days we were preparing to leave Ecuador, my sister was researching pancreatic doctors in the States. She found the 3 hospitals ranked highest in this field and started the process of finding me an appointment at one of them. She spent hours on the phone. God once again provided, and I was given an appointment with the chief of surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering.

Another church provided our airline tickets to New York.

2 weeks after finding the tumor, I saw the doctor in New York City. After looking at my images, he recognized it as a benign tumor. He told me it was the best kind of tumor to have on the pancreas.

We were able to schedule surgery within the week. All went as planned and I was released after 4 nights.

After losing half of my pancreas I could have developed diabetes, but I didn’t.

I have heard of others who have really struggled after this surgery, but God has protected me and allowed healing.

God has provided for most of our additional costs through our churches and supporters.

So now what? Avant has given us permission to remain in Kansas till December. This allows Lindsey to finish 1st semester. We are praying this will make her transition back to Ecuador a little bit easier. It is looking like I will be back in the classroom starting after Christmas. Going back in the middle of the year to a new grade level sounds like a huge challenge to me. So please pray for this transition.

Thank you so much for walking this journey with us!

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Back to Kansas

Kristi had her follow-up appointment with the doctor yesterday afternoon, giving increased clarity and closure regarding her recent surgery. The pathology report resulted in the best possible news, her tumor was indeed benign and it was low grade--meaning it grew slowly and is less likely to spread. There is a small chance it could resurface during the next 5 years (less than 10%.) If it does it would probably be in her liver or lymph nodes, but even then it would be expected to be the same rare, benign form of pancreatic tumor. This is great news; we are thankful to God for answering our prayers in this way and thankful to you for joining us with your petitions to him.

Kristi will need to do periodic scans in the coming months and years. Her doctor in New York is willing to review images from a distance if we do them in other parts of the US or even in Ecuador. We are very grateful for the excellent doctor God gave to us. He has shown himself to be professionally excellent and also extremely focused on serving us in this and many other ways.

Kristi did not develop diabetes as a result of the surgery and does not have a significant increase in her likelihood of developing it for the future.

She has been seeing progress in her recovery from surgery and felt ready to travel. We changed our tickets to today and we're currently on our way back to Kansas as I write. She definitely needs more recovery before traveling internationally and considering stepping into her classroom ministry. Now that Lindsey has started the school year here we need to consider several factors and make a decision about the best timing for our return to the field. Pray for wisdom as we work on this during the next week.

Thank you for walking this journey with us!

Scott